“Well Em, today is the first day in 48 years that I haven’t owned a dairy cow,” Dad said to me as we wrapped up our annual New Year’s Day dinner with the family.

Gwin emily
Former Editor / Progressive Dairy

He said this with a hint of a smile and much disbelief, like he couldn’t quite grasp that this day had come. As of Jan. 1, my brother and his wife are now the owners and operators of our family dairy farm in Pennsylvania.

Dad is in his mid-50s, the average age of the U.S. farmer. Right after he graduated college, he took over the farm from my grandfather. Pap had worked hard during his tenure of ownership to increase acreage for the farm. Over the course of three decades, he joined several tracts of land, enabling the family to farm about 300 acres.

When Dad took over, he set about updating buildings and equipment and keeping the farm profitable. As I’ve shared before, he transformed our conventional dairy farm into a rotational grazing system in order to stay in the dairy business.

My brother, Kevin, has shown that his strengths lie in making things grow. Since he graduated college in 2007, he pursued careers in agronomy and nutrient management consulting. He plans to increase cow numbers and enhance the productivity of the farm’s pastures through attention to the soil.


It’s important to note that while he was living, Pap shared 62 years of marriage and farming with my grandmother, Dad has relied on Mom since his beginning days of ownership, and Kevin somehow convinced his wife, Kelly (who grew up on a beef operation) that they too should become dairy farmers. Though each married into the dairy farm life, all three Caldwell women have worked alongside the men and shared their dream.

Dad’s not ready to retire, of course. When the neighboring farmers ask him what he’s going to do, he just shrugs his shoulders and says he’ll find something. But he recognized that it was time for him to step aside and let a new generation take over. He knew that while he’d be around to offer advice and help, he needed to turn decision-making over to my brother.

True to the meaning of the word “transition,” this has been a work-in-progress. Dad wanted to set Kevin up for future success, so he consulted with transition experts and developed a long-term buyout plan.

My parents have also held several discussions with my other two siblings and me to make sure we were kept in the loop and had an opportunity to express concerns. We fully support Kevin and Kelly, and we’re all excited to see the farm continue to a sixth generation of our family.

I’m doing a bit of transitioning in my own dairy career, though on a much smaller scale. I’m pleased to welcome Jenna Hurty to our team of Progressive Dairyman editors. Jenna has been on the scene for the past several months, starting as a summer intern for our Progressive Forage Grower magazine after graduating last May from Truman State University in Missouri.

She continued on in the fall as a staff writer for multiple publications and joined us at the 2014 World Dairy Expo. She’s energetic, eager to learn about the dairy industry and excited to travel and explore.

With this issue, she has taken on covering the topic of calf and heifer raising for the magazine, which had been one of my areas of responsibility. Be sure to check out her cover story about Ruedinger Farms in Wisconsin and their calf-care protocols here . Jenna will also provide content for animal welfare, a topic for which she has a true passion.

Jenna’s addition to the team allows me to take over some topic areas from Walt Cooley and frees him up to embrace his title of managing editor. In fact, her new role impacts each member of our editorial staff, but it’s certainly a change that we welcome.

I think there’s a tendency in the dairy industry to avoid change. But as you make your 2015 plans, I encourage you to think about ways to shake things up. Hire on new talent, shift responsibilities to an employee who shows great promise or begin the discussion to transition the farm to your next generation.

These types of changes require guidance and training, but they also lead to new ideas and growth of the business. To me, that’s a change worth making. PD

Emily Caldwell
  • Emily Caldwell

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